"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Why I didn’t March with Women; but did with Idle No More

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As the word was getting about on the topic of the women’s march, I gave some thought to joining the group. I’m not happy with a misogynist president either. I felt a deep sense of ambivalence about participating in the event, which is usually a sign for me to stay away. As I’ve read the ‘after-action’ reports, particularly from an indigenous perspective, I understand that sense of ambivalence better.

GK Chesterton had a great passage about the modern skeptic, in his seminal book Orthodoxy:

The new rebel is a skeptic and will not entirely trust anything… [T]he fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation applies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces but the doctrine by which he denounces it… As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, as a philosopher, that all life is a waste of time. [He] goes to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.

There is a modern tendency to protest everything, something which arises from the same rationale as Chesterton’s modern skeptic.  My disquiet was due to something deeper, and something racial.

The march was predominantly white women, protesting predominantly issues facing western white women.  In the lead up to the big day I saw stories about how pro-life women’s groups had been excluded, and in a couple of venues how indigenous women’s voices had been excluded.  The pro-life aspect really troubled me, as one of the refrains of the march was around the idea of ‘sisterhood’, but with large sections of that sisterhood marginalized, it put to lie the idea of a community of women.  Hence, a white woman’s march, and a selective group at that.

I’ve recently discovered twitter, and also that it is a huge means of building community for indigenous individuals.  As a medium which provides them with complete control (through the mute and block options) they are able to carry out discussions which are blunt and sometimes very painful.  When contrary voices from other racial backgrounds seek to impose their will, they can be controlled quickly.  It is a place I have encountered much truth-telling.

That sounds like a bad thing.  But.  For the indigenous community, the question of who controls news and communications is one that is tied up tightly in issues of colonialism.  For people who have been rendered voiceless for 100’s of years, social media presents a channel which is not subject to the control of settlers, a place where the community can discuss openly and censor those colonial voices.  In my two weeks listening (mostly) I have learned more about contemporary indigenous issues than over the last 25 texts I’ve read on the subject.  In particular, I’ve learned a ton about a very fierce community of indigenous women warriors that openly discuss things of import.  It has been a powerful and blessed time of learning.

In their voices, people who had attended the women’s march (sometimes reluctantly because of a long life of colonialism impacting them), and a number at Standing Rock, spoke about episodes of racism, being mocked and being minimized by their “sisters”.  Another theme I heard clearly through minority women beyond the indigenous community was disappointment that all those women would march for reproductive rights, but would never show up at an Idle No More, Standing Rock or Black Lives Matter march.

Oil pipeline spills are always a distant story for we urban dwellers…when most of them are in the backyards of First Nations.

That comment hearkens back to my posts about white privilege – one of my observations is there are lots of people spouting the ‘white privilege’ line…but few who will show up at Standing Rock or Idle No More or with the Metis at Christina Lake protesting a pipeline (for an Alberta example).  It reinforces one of my conclusions, that the point of much social justice warrior activity is to convince one’s self that you’re not complicit in the cycles of violence and oppression.  This is not a question of privilege, it is one of raw power.

Simply stated, when it comes to questions of land in North America, if you’re living here, you’re complicit.

As a part of my continuing growth I’m reading Chelsea Vowel’s excellent book, Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit issues in Canada.  I’ve followed her blog for the last couple of years because she is a witty and very insightful commentator on indigenous issues, and particularly Metis issues.  If you’re interested in engaging some of these issues more deeply, particularly as a settler looking to learn the first steps of reconciliation, I would highly recommend her book and a tour through her blog.

Some of the words from indigenous marchers were very hard to read through, so obvious was the lack of respect and welcome.  One that really stuck with me was the thread run out by @sydnerain, and some of the incredibly obtuse responses that she received.  As a sample (all her feed unless otherwise noted):

I don’t care how many pointless apologies or how good of a “feminist” you think you are. This is absolute terrorism happening right now

I also have 100+ people asking me to tell them what to do. I will not be telling you individually what to do. This is ridiculous.

Jan 23  White women! Feel free to offer up a $250/hr USD consulting fee to Black, Indigenous, and women of colour, any time you want labour, okay?.

I’ve been sayin this all night. There are WW that simply do not give a shit and don’t want to learn cause it makes them “uncomfortable.”.

Jan 22 @ShupeagDavid Entire thread is her teaching. And she’s not obligated 2 do so-requiring marginalized ppl to educate is oppression..

Sidenote for all new followers/readers of the thread, I am not your human encyclopedia or museum, if you have a ? then do your own research..

Y’all need to know we native women are, have been, and will always be sickened by settler colonial white supremacist cisgender “feminism.”.

What did I learn from ? I learned to keep distance from self-proclaimed feminist movements. I learned some WW refuse to learn..

You, WW, are complicit in my genocide, & until you abandon ur white fragility & acknowledge this you’re a white supremacist, not a feminist.

You want me to hold hands with you and sing kumbaya and be “equal,” while you stand on our ancestor’s graves and this is your first march..

You, WW with a transphobic sign about your vagina being your womanhood, WW that is a colonizer on my land, are not my sister. The opposite..

WW want to call me their “sister,” but my sisters don’t touch me or my regalia without my permission. They don’t speak over me..

These WW are saying “this is just the beginning.” Our ancestors have marched since 1492. This is our whole lives. This is who we are..

They only stopped to pay attention to us when we drummed & sang our women’s warrior song, round danced, or to say we have “pretty costumes.”.

The whole time I am treated by non-Natives and especially WW like a marching spectacle while they refuse my fliers. Like a real life museum..

And I’m marching and trying to hold my head up and remembering my Mvskoke ancestors who marched on the Trail of Tears for me to be here..

I’m crying now typing this. One day it’s a pipeline. The next our babies are stolen. Next our sisters go missing. Next we’re killed by cops..

We begin our first chant, “Mni Wiconi, water is life.” WW look confused. WW staring at us or just acting oblivious like we weren’t there..

When the march begins I am surrounded by WW holding up signs like “smash the patriarchy” “keep your hands off our pussies” and so forth..

None of us are amused and we ask her to leave. She calls us and our march “rude” and said “it’s unfortunate that Indians can’t take jokes.”.

WW responds: “I’m from Minnesota. I can name a lot of the lakes around me and they’re all in Indian. I even know some tribes too.”.

We responded, “We don’t get to choose if we’re native or not. This is our reality & you are not Indian. You are disrespectful & need to go.”.

When the march starts several WW try to join our group to march with us. Two WW beside me told me “Guess we’re Indians today!” and laughed..

WW try to walk through our prayer circle and are immediately called out by our elders present. This is all before the march even starts..

Outside the prayer circle WW are taking pics & videos of us in round dance. Several WW roll up in R*skins hats. WW asking me “What is this?”.

You could hear what the WW said. “They’re real Indians.” “They’re still here?” “I think they’re faking it.” “Why do they look like that?”.

Many women of color (WOC) have criticized this march already. I’d like to share an indigenous experience of colonization and stolen land.


What amazed me were the chastising white voices – “you should know who your allies are and respect us” — was the one that really caught my eye (and I won’t name the poster because she does not deserve to have a voice).  Second aspect where the conciliatory voices asking the poster to help them learn more.  If nothing else, a good reminder that the event you consider to be a great triumph, may be reminding someone else of a lasting terror..

Let’s talk the silliness of ‘white privilege’ now.  Only someone speaking from a position of power would say to the oppressed, “Teach me about your oppression so I can understand it.”  Many indigenous voices responded in protest to point out that the first step in reconciliation is for the oppressor to learn what it means to be an oppressor, and that they should figure out some resources on their own..

Chelsea Vowel points out in her book (as I did previously) that the real power of an oppressor is the ability to name things, a power not shared by any of the oppressed.  The march as I perceived it involved a lot of oppressive naming of things, and when the oppressed tried to raise a voice they were shut down as ‘rude’ or not having a sense of humour..

And so, when it comes to supporting true oppression, I’m afraid I will continue to throw my efforts behind these fierce sisters.  It was only a few years back that the news that the Saskatoon police department was taking indigenous men to the outskirts of town (in the winter) and leaving them there.  Discovered when one man froze to death.  This stuff is continuing to happen, today, in this country..

A final word.  I heard this outstanding talk on CBC ideas.  Indigenous law professor Tracey Lindberg and author of a fictional work, “Birdie” spoke on the question of “Reconciliation before Reconciliation”.  How do you achieve reconciliation when the same cycle of genocide is ongoing today (and Justin Trudeau’s promises of a ‘nation to nation discussion’ and implementing the UNDRIP have become one more set of broken promises in a line of 100’s of years of broken promises)?  Part of that how involves people realizing that their circumstance today was possible because of the theft of land and life from many others:

The first black cars came and scooped out our grandparents, great-grandparents and took them to schools, those babies.  Then the black car took our hunters and warriors who were following our laws, to jail. Then the black car took our children to other families, other communities and other nations. And you can bet whats happening at Val D’or whats happening at Standing Rock is housed,is being fed, is being sponsored by, being travelled to, animated by people in black cars.  I want to talk about reconciliation when the black cars are still running.


How do we talk about reconciliation when the black cars are still running?


Written by sameo416

January 24, 2017 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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